Monday, 29 February 2016
Post 100: What I Believe
This is my one hundredth post! I’m shocked; I had no idea that I had so much to say, or so much inclination to say it. What’s even more shocking is that apparently there are also people with an inclination to read it. Since you, by dint of reading these words are clearly one of these wise and tasteful people, then all I can say is thank you. According to the Blogger statistics, this blog has received 8563 views, including 947 in the last month alone. I’ve read that many of these will actually just be Googlebots at work, and not real people, so the statistics are misleading, but hopefully some of what I’ve written has helped those Googlebots, and led them to determine to be better, purer Googlebots than they were before. Either way, Googlebots (turns out I quite like saying ‘Googlebots’) notwithstanding, I suddenly feel a weird nervousness and sense of responsibility. I suddenly feel like I ought to be writing important things about important things, rather than merely airing my ill-informed opinions on whatever happens to have caught my fancy on a given day.
Well, as a strategy it’s worked so far, so I’ll stick with it for now. However, I thought that for my 100th post, I’d maybe do something slightly different. I make constant allusions to my own beliefs, religious and political, but I’ve never really outlined what they actually are. This post then will be a vague summary of what it is I believe, at the time of writing. Again, why you’d care what I believe I have no idea, except that it might provide some sort of context for my other posts, and make it easier to argue with me.
If asked, I would classify myself as a moderate in most things. I would call myself a moderate Christian, since I seem to be more theologically liberal than most conservatives, and more conservative than most liberals. Politically and socially I would say that I’m the same.
During my late teens and very early twenties, the beliefs of my childhood blurred into a vague deism. As I got older, I started to read about Christianity, almost out of curiosity, and started to reformulate my beliefs according to what made sense to me and seemed best. I found myself reading Chesterton’s ‘Orthodoxy’. Early on in the book, he writes, “I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.” It almost perfectly encapsulated my own experience, in that my carefully thought-out heterodoxy turned out to mirror both Methodist theology and Methodist social policies almost (but not quite) exactly.
Theologically then, I can recite the Creed with only minor mental caveats. I believe in God, in the Trinity, in the divinity of Christ and in the virgin birth (although this latter I consider to be a fairly unimportant point, true or false). I believe in miracles, in the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension. I believe in a form of original sin, but I believe it to be the genetically ingrained self-centred legacy of a period of our evolution during which self-centredness was a survival trait, and a period which we have now left behind as spiritual creatures. I believe in the substitutionary atonement of Christ, and that God’s prevenient Grace is offered to all people, who are free to take or reject it as they choose, and to do so more than once. I believe in prayer and social religion, in human free will and that God has chosen to subordinate His sovereignty to it, and allow us to make our own choices and live with the consequences of them. I believe in an immortal soul, and in existence after death. I do not believe in Hell, in the traditional sense, but might go so far as to believe either in isolation from God, or in simple annihilation of the soul. I believe that this world is a preparation for the next, although I have no idea what form that might take.
I believe in a single catholic (note the lower case 'c') church, one body made of many different parts, and despite significant historical and contemporary wrongs, that it is overwhelmingly a power for good. I believe that the Bible is divinely inspired, but written by fallible but highly-learned men, and not that it is in and of itself the perfect word of God. I believe it to be an authority, but not a final or absolute one. I believe that it must be understood within the historical and social contexts within which it was written, and with an understanding, as far as possible, of the individuals who wrote it, their biases and prejudices. I believe in evolution, and in the Big Bang (pending better theories). I believe the account of creation in Genesis to be allegorical at best, and that science has revealed many stories of the Bible to be untrue. I believe in science as our greatest tool for revealing and understanding the vast, wondrous and beautiful universe in which we live, but I believe that there are questions that science is not and never will be in a position to answer.
Socially, I believe that all people are born equal. Gender, skin colour, religion (or lack thereof) and sexuality should be considered completely unimportant compared to a person’s ethics, morals and character. I believe that people of varying and even opposing backgrounds, beliefs and opinions can, should and do co-exist, converse and discuss in a spirit of mutual respect and compassion. I do not believe homosexuality or homosexual sex to be intrinsically wrong. My understanding of marriage is that it is a lifelong, monogamous relationship between two people. The gender of the people involved I do not consider to be at all important next to that lifelong, monogamous commitment.
I do believe abortion to be very wrong. I acknowledge that there are circumstances in which it is a lesser evil, and therefore permissible, but it is an evil nonetheless. I believe it to be nothing other than the killing of a human being, whose only crime is to inconveniently exist. I believe that no human being is unwanted. Similarly, I utterly oppose the death penalty, in all circumstances. I believe euthanasia and assisted suicide to be wrong. I believe that life is sacred and not to be thrown away.
I believe that we have a moral duty and a divine imperative to shelter the homeless, feed the starving, support the poor, and welcome the stranger. I believe that society has a responsibility to look after its most vulnerable members, and that no-one is outside of society. I believe that there are no foreigners, no outsiders, merely human beings; no Them, merely Us, and that we should all work together for the good of all. I believe that there are no absolute rights, but many absolute responsibilities, that no-one has the right not to be disagreed with, not to be offended, not to be opposed, but that everybody has the responsibility to speak courteously and kindly, even in disagreement or opposition.
Perhaps most importantly, I believe that I do not have all the answers, do not know all the facts, have not considered all the viewpoints, am not free of biases and prejudices of my own. These are my beliefs, but they are not set in stone. They can and ought to change with new insights and new information, and as such I believe that I ought to listen respectfully to those whose beliefs differ to mine, even if they seem very wrong to me. These are my beliefs, but I don’t claim that they are correct, merely that they are mine.
I believe that that is probably enough for now. This then is what I believe, but not my reasons for believing it. They would probably fill a lengthy and rather boring book that I have even less inclination to write than you do to read.
This has been rather a long post, but hopefully it hasn’t been a completely pointless one, and has clarified my position on a few things. I wonder what I’ll end up writing about for my next hundred posts…?